At this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, at National Harbor, Texas Gov.Rick Perry (R) decried the “media narrative” that the country is pulling away from conservative ideals. When asked whether Portman’s announcement was a turning point for the party, anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist said it remains to be seen.
“The discussions of exactly how you deal with marriage is an important issue,” Norquist said during the conference. “But the most important thing for Republicans to do is make it clear they’re for everybody and they’ll work with everybody and they want to earn the support of everybody.”
In 2004, Ohio voters backed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage by 62 percent to 38 percent. By last fall, a Washington Post poll showed that 52 percent of registered voters in the state said gay marriage should be legal.
On the national level, more than 100 prominent Republicans sent a brief to the Supreme Court in February supporting the legalization of gay marriage. But only 29 percent of Republican voters agree, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in November.
Portman, known as a workhorse who is high on thoughtfulness and low on charisma, has rarely been vocal on social issues, though his votes have aligned with his party on gay rights. As recently as last year, he opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prevent employees from being fired because of their sexuality. He has received a failing grade from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights group.
In an interview with CNN, Portman said he believes that individual states should decide whether to allow gay marriage. He also described how he informed the Romney campaign of his son’s sexuality during the vice-presidential vetting process — Portman added that this wasn’t a factor in Romney’s decision to pick someone else — and how Will endorsed his father’s use of his name and sexuality in the announcement.
“I think [Will is] happy and, you know, proud that we’ve come to this point, but he let it be my decision just as, you know, it’s going to be his decision as to the role he plays going forward in this whole issue,” said Portman.
Portman also said he sought counsel from former vice president Dick Cheney, a supporter of gay marriage whose daughter Mary is married to a woman.
Portman said Cheney offered him this advice: “Follow your heart.”
Staff writers Sean Sullivan and Aaron Blake and Capital Insight pollster Scott Clement contributed to this report.
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